I’m an Older Woman. My 50th birthday is fast approaching. No matter what I do with my résumé, it is pretty obvious that I’m not a millennial. That is who is truly desired, it seems, by the tech startups that I prefer to work with.
Oh, the job postings don’t come out and say that they don’t want old people, but the keywords are there . “Fast-paced,” “high energy,” and “dynamic!” They all whisper, at least, that “we only want young people!”
This isn’t just my impression, but the consensus among various people I’ve spoken with. It probably isn’t intentional, but the bias is there and the ageism is felt. So I want to address some things that seem to be missed by the “we want young people!” folks.
First, there are plenty of mature workers who can keep up with that “fast pace” you describe. We know ourselves, our bodies and our other commitments. We have the experience it takes to judge whether or not we can commit to startup life. I’ll be honest: I don’t think many young people can match that level of self-knowledge. I know that when I first worked for a startup, back in 1995, I didn’t have any idea how much dedication it would require.
Second, older workers bring a lifetime of experience in many different areas, and that experience is brought to bear in our working lives in ways that younger workers simply cannot match. For instance, I don’t have the administrative work I did decades ago on my résumé, as it isn’t directly relevant now. However, that experience shaped me and gives me the ability to better relate to non-technical people as a support professional.Younger people don’t have that kind of added value.
The average older worker has been out of school and their parents’ homes for a long time, meaning that they have experience managing their own finances and households independently (or with life partners). That gives us a certain respect for the value of money and time that nothing else does. How much of that experience does someone right out of school have?
Most older workers are also post-parenting. Their kids are grown and reasonably independent (whether out of the house or not), so they aren’t going to be juggling pregnancies, soccer practices, and music lessons that will impact their work lives. Grandchildren? Yes, some of us have them. Being a grandparent is, however, a far less time-consuming commitment for most people than being a parent.
Finally, there’s nothing else that beats maturity for giving you a calm temperament. Some people are born with them, but on average, it’s easier for someone with 30 years of professional experience to put one bad day into perspective than it is for someone with a few months or years of working under their belts. (I know there are exceptions to this, as to every rule, but Donald Trump probably isn’t applying to work at your startup.)
The next time you get a résumé or application from a Baby Boomer or Gen X’er, then, please take these factors into account. Consider their technical skills, certainly (and don’t assume that they’ll be outdated) but weigh their maturity on the positive side of the scale, for a change.